KAMLOOPS – When calls of itchy, watery eyes accompanied a call about smoke at New Life Mission Out Reach Centre on Victoria Street West this afternoon, a hazmat team was called in alongside fire crews.
Assistant fire chief Dave McMahon says they took the precautions they thought necessary, which include the hazmat team and evacuating the building. Hazmat was called off when crews realized the source of the smoke, which had filtered through the building, was cleaning rags in the dryer.
“When they get threadbare they act like (wet) straw,” McMahon says, “and they can produce a lot of smoke.”
Add chemicals into the mix and the situation can become toxic, he adds, and since many rags are used for cleaning this is can be a concern when drying rags or cloths.
While this situation turned out okay, no one was taken to hospital and they were able to vent the building in about half an hour, but dryer fires can happen more often than you think.
Life safety educator Sheldon Guertin says while dryer fires don't outnumber kitchen fires, they definitely do see some.
“It is a concern, it's a preventable fire,” Guertin says, “Simple things like clean out your lint trap on a regular basis... vacuum out the screen where the trap inserts, we see a lot of fires start there.”
Regular inspections of hoses and vents is important, and Guertin says this is something people can easily do themselves. He adds if you're dryer is not drying properly in one cycle or seems to get overly hot, there is likely something wrong with it.
Rags are often made from natural fibres, putting them at a high risk for spontaneous combustion when heated and at a commercial level there are protocols in place to help prevent these types of fires.
“Take them out, check for temperatures, flip them over and let them cool down,” Guertin says of the process, which can also be done at home.
Above all else, Guertin says, no flammables should ever go in the dryer. That includes cleaning products, oils and gasses. While not all are prone to spontaneous combustion the dryer as a heat source can cause the ignition of gasses, causing a fire.
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